Tuomi’s Time Machine: Meehan’s Nurseries

As the Chestnut Hill rail line opened new tracts of land in the 19th century, wealthy homeowners turned to Meehan’s for fashionable flora 

A 1902 view of an entrance to the Meehan nurseries. Photo courtesy of Germantown Historical Society/Historic Germantown.

In the mid-19th century, many large houses were built on spacious, landscaped grounds in Germantown, Mount Airy, and Chestnut Hill. The 1884 opening of the Pennsylvania Railroad’s line to Chestnut Hill (now SEPTA’s Chestnut Hill West line) made large tracts of land attractive for development, and the pace of construction of large houses marketed to Philadelphia executives quickened after the line was completed.

Thomas Meehan

Internationally acclaimed botanist, horticulturist, and nurseryman Thomas Meehan benefitted from this housing boom, as he was hired to provide ornamental plantings for numerous homeowners throughout the area. Meehan published numerous trade catalogs with photographs of lush landscapes and large country estates beyond, highlighting many of the trees, shrubs, and flowers his nursery sold.

The cover of Meehan’s October 1909 Gardener’s Monthly. Photo courtesy of Germantown Historical Society/Historic Germantown.

His nurseries’ offices were located at 6700 Chew Avenue (map below) and the property extended east towards SEPTA’s Chestnut Hill East line. The nurseries operated there for many years, before later relocating to Plymouth Meeting. The former nursery was subsequently subdivided and developed into the 300-400 blocks of East Vernon Road, Pleasant Street, Slocum Street, and Meehan Avenue in East Mount Airy. No evidence still exists of Meehan’s Nurseries today.

Tuomi’s Time Machine

The Time Machine is a regular column featuring some of Tuomi Forrest’s favorite images from the Germantown Historical Society’s extensive collection.

Articles in the series are written by Alex Bartlett, Librarian and Archivist of the Germantown Historical Society/ Historic Germantown. For additional information or to learn more about the history of our area, please contact him at (215)844-1683, or at library@germantownhistory.org.

Did you know the Germantown Historical Society has thousands of historical photographs of local subjects available online? You can see them at www.germantownhistory.org by clicking on “online photographs collections” towards the left side of the home page. Then, use the “keyword search” function to search for photographs of topics of local interest. Enjoy!

About Historic Germantown

Historic Germantown is a partnership of 18 historic houses, destinations, and museums that have joined together to protect, preserve, and share some of the area’s prized cultural assets.

Historic Germantown manages the Germantown Historical Society archives and a collection of over 50,000 items; for more information, visit www.germantownhistory.org.

5501 Germantown Ave.

About Tuomi Forrest 3 Articles
Tuomi Forrest has been Executive Director of Historic Germantown since August 2018. He has many years of experience bringing the power of history to community organizations and institutions. Having most recently served as Executive Vice President of the nationally known Partners for Sacred Places, Forrest brings an extensive background in administration, fundraising, research and public policy to Historic Germantown.

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